PEOPLE POWER SAVES MALAYSIA – FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY

PEOPLE POWER SAVES MALAYSIA – FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY

MAY 9

PEOPLE POWER SAVES MALAYSIA

MAHATHIR LEADS THE WAY

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About The Book

May 9 was a significant day for all Malaysians. It heralded a new landscape – economic, social and political – for the citizens.

This book is a fascinating read that is retold through the inner stirrings of a young boy, an unfortunate victim of a sick and corrupt system on the brink of economic collapse. In the face of rising costs and unemployment, the boy yearned for a change. Will tomorrow ever come?

By sharing glimpses from the innocent lenses of a child, the author has painted a stark contrast of childlike simplicity with the world of grown-ups that is consumed by greed and glittering gems. It captures the journey of a nation that has witnessed the most dramatic trajectories of greed and power.

As the journey unfolds through the pages, we blush at the shameful erosion of a political system and the painful departure of leaders entrenched in corrupt practices. We applaud the triumphant ushering of a new team who would pick up the pieces and lead the people to new beginnings. This is a heartwarming narrative where Malaysians came together as one, and with a singular voice, they ignited the historic shift.

Through a compelling compilation of observations from journalists, commentators and political activists, veteran journalist and academician Krishnamoorthy sheds penetrating insights into the events leading to the iconic moment when the country’s once longest ruling Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, saw it as a call of duty to restore the nation’s glory. At age 93, he saved the country from the pits of kleptocracy.

May 9 People Power Saves Malaysia – Mahathir Leads the Way is a story of hurt and healing, abuse and forgiveness, of gloom and glory, and of tears and triumph. It is a tribute to Malaysians and Tun Dr Mahathir. Indeed, it celebrates the courage, hope and dignity of Malaysians — to create a brave, new Malaysia.

Surely, tomorrow will come, and it will be better than today.

About the Author

Krishnamoorthy Muthaly is a journalist who lives by his convictions. A veteran in media relations, Krishnamoorthy is passionate about providing readers with fast-paced stories, and adopts a decidedly different view to storytelling. His penchant for nothing but the truth has honed his investigative journalistic skills throughout his career, as he seeks to untangle the truth from a complex web of spins.

Self-motivated, resourceful and versatile, Krishnamoothy is one who goes beyond the superficial façade of life. One contributing factor that lends depth to his writing is his humble background. He started work as a junior officer in Tenaga Nasional from 1989 to 1979, and saved his earnings to pursue a degree in journalism at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Whilst at the university, he played a prominent role in the Knoxville festivals. Unprecedented in the history of the university, Krishnamoorthy organised a meeting for student leaders with former President Jimmy Carter in 1982.

As a senior reporter with The Straits Times and The Star for more than two decades, he has highlighted society’s concerns. He has gone undercover as a beggar, security guard, blind man, a physically challenged passenger, a salesman and a Member of Parliament. His exclusive scoops have not only brought timeless insights to readers but have also provoked our conscience, while unveiling the good and the bad about human nature.

With his crisp writing style and inquiring mind, he bagged several awards, including the Journalist of the Year 1987 from the Malaysian Press Institute and Consumer Journalist of the Year. Apart from writing, Krishnamoorthy is a media coach specialising in media writing and crisis management. He has also served as an academic with various universities, imparting his journalism knowledge to students. He is currently an Associate Professor at an internationally acclaimed university.

At almost 70 when most people would gladly retire, the author is not one to pause for the twilight. He continues to freelance with CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Time magazine, New York Times, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, as well as German, American and Australian TV stations, where he conducts interviews with world leaders. Krishnamoothy’s stories and coaching embody his approach to life. Embracing the belief that people are uniquely different and are miracles in progress, Krishnamoorthy strives to add value to the lives of young people, and is committed to training and empowering the next generation for organisations. Essentially, he lives by the maxim of loving all and hurting none.

WHY THIS BOOK?

WHO

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad played a key role campaigning at 93 and brought Malaysians of all races together through the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto. GE14 is a historic event of how Mahathir saved Malaysia from corruption. This book is a reminder to act against those who stole people’s money.

WHAT

The Malaysian Tsunami of voters wanted the change. Everything that happens to us is the result of what we ourselves have thought, said and done. Malaysians are determined to be resilient, resourceful, and open minded to face the challenges and realities of the 21st century. Malaysia was engulfed in darkness and we finally saw the light on May 9.

WHEN

May 9 was a significant date. Malaysia made history when opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan ousted the 61-year-old ruling Barisan Nasional through its campaign against kleptocracy.

WHERE

Nationwide, the Malaysian psyche changed. In Malaysia, we took the responsibility to vote for a brighter future for our children and a better tomorrow.

WHY

My passion for writing. Why gossip? It is better to put my thoughts in writing. Journalists are known for writing the first draft of history. Not me alone, but others too have a chance to express their thoughts in this book. News, views, comments and statements by leaders are often forgotten. I am just documenting as events unfold for the record.

HOW

People Power defeated an unfair, unjust and authoritarian government. Everything that happened was the reflection of our thoughts and can be changed by our thinking process. I tried my best to chronicle this book as a story from darkness to light in Dr Mahathir’s last battle to rule Malaysia.

AMBIGA TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

(Foreword — extract)

Love Malaysia, End Kleptocracy

Together, we can create a wave of change for a better future for Malaysians. We succeeded in ousting a kleptocratic government. In most of my public talks, I said Malaysia could have been branded as the “Switzerland of the East” if not for corruption that plagued the Barisan Nasional government. Enough is enough. Barisan has ruled the country for 61 years and how could RM2.6 billion be deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal accounts?

Malaysia was blessed with a wealth of natural resources and talent, but corruption had become part and parcel of daily life. As the saying goes, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Fortunately, Malaysians have voted out a kleptocratic government. Before GE14, Malaysia faced a bleak prospect of the collapse of the rule of law, the creation of an absolute dictator and the establishing of kleptocracy as a norm. The leaders then infringed the law and continued to hold the reins of power, consolidating their positions.

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Watsons’s #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri to lift humanity to new heights

Watsons’s #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri to lift humanity to new heights

What is the true meaning of sincerity?

Watch the #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri event brought to you by Watsons Malaysia.

Share all the good deeds that you’ve done and submit it with hashtags #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri and #WatsonsMalaysia Watsons Malaysia will donate RM1 to Darul Insyirah for each entry. Do Good and Feel Great this Ramadan.

There are many unsung heroes in our lives. Doing a good deed nourishes your soul. Heart-warming incidents in the name of humanity make the world a better place.

Saving lives matters more than anything else. Offering genuine help to others doesn’t go by race and religion. Sapno Tukijo, a “bilal” of the Taman Free School surau in Penang provided shelter for 70 flood victims at the worship place, saving them from the flood onslaught.

#MisiIkhlasAidilfitri Mangsa Banjir Bukan Islam Menumpang di Surau

#MisiIkhlasAidilfitri Mangsa Banjir Bukan Islam Menumpang di Surau Jika anda mempunyai kisah/misi, kongsikan bersama kami untuk dijadikan sebagai inspirasi dan motivasi.200 mata (RM1) akan didermakan ke @Darul Insyirah untuk setiap penyertaan yang dibuat.Bagaimana untuk sertainya?1. Kongsikan kisah/misi anda melalui status, foto ataupun video di Facebook & Instagram.2. Gunakan hasrat #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri dan #WatsonsMalaysia .3. Pastikan posting anda umum.Untuk keterangan lanjut: https://goo.gl/Wyz1QNKredit: SAYS-#MisiIkhlasAidilfitri Penang Bilal Provides Shelter to Non-Muslim Flood Victims.If you have a story/mission of goodness, share it with us so we can inspire others to do the same. 200 points (RM1) will be donated to @Darul Insyirah for every submission made. How do you make a submission?1. Share your story/mission through photo, video or status posts on Facebook & Instagram.2. Use both the #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri and #WatsonsMalaysia hashtags.3. Make sure your posting is made public.Find out more at: https://goo.gl/Wyz1QN Credit: SAYS

Posted by Watsons Malaysia on Tuesday, 15 May 2018

A Malaysian national basketball player, Mohd Shadzwan Kamalrulzaman, saved the life of an unconscious man at Hong Kong International Airport by performing a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) rescue.

#MisiIkhlasAidilfitri Pemain Bola Keranjang Malaysia Selamatkan Nyawa di Hong Kong

Misi Ikhlas Aidilfitri, merupakan kempen amal daripada Watsons Malaysia untuk mengajak orang ramai menyebarkan kebaikan kepada semua orang. Jika anda mempunyai kisah/misi, kongsikan bersama kami untuk dijadikan sebagai inspirasi dan motivasi.200 mata (RM1) akan didermakan ke Darul Insyirah untuk setiap penyertaan yang dibuat.Bagaimana untuk sertainya?1. Kongsikan kisah/misi dengan di Facebook & Instagram. 2. Gunakan hasrat #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri dan #WatsonsMalaysia.3. Pastikan posting anda umum.Untuk keterangan lanjut, layarilah https://goo.gl/4TYMZo.Kredit: SAYS-#MisiIkhlasAidilfitri Malaysian Basketball Player Saves Life in Hong KongMisi Ikhlas Aidilfitri is a CSR campaign by Watsons Malaysia that invites everyone to help spread some goodness. If you have a story/mission of goodness, share it with us to inspire others to do the same!200 points (RM1) will also be donated to Darul Insyirah for every submission made. How do you make a submission?1. Share your story/mission on Facebook & Instagram.2. Use both the #MisiIkhlasAidilfitri and #WatsonsMalaysia hashtag.3. Make sure your posting is made public.Learn more at https://goo.gl/4TYMZo.Credit: SAYS

Posted by Watsons Malaysia on Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Sometimes it’s just a small random act of kindness that is genuinely inspiring and motivating. Sean, a Malaysian teenager, offered to carry a 15kg luggage and accompany a Filipino man with leg injuries throughout the flight from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur.

#MisiIkhlasAidilfitri Remaja hulurkan bantuan kepada lelaki yang cedera dalam perjalanan ke Kuala Lumpur

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Posted by Watsons Malaysia on Wednesday, 16 May 2018

For actress Ezzaty Abdullah, something straight from the heart is spiritually meaningful and powerful. Heartfelt smiles are a form of positive energy that can cheer someone up, for instance.

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I am not simply Chinese Malaysian; I am ‘Hakkien’

I am not simply Chinese Malaysian; I am ‘Hakkien’

I grew up eating Hokkien mee a lot. It is still one of my favorite dishes to this day. For those who have no inkling of what Hokkien mee is, it is a dish of thick yellow noodles stir-fried in black soy sauce with pork lard, prawns and cabbage, and served with a must-have chilli shrimp paste condiment also known as sambal belacan in Malay.

Contrary to what people believe, this popular dish did not originate from the Fujian province of China but was allegedly created by Wong Kian Lee, an immigrant of Hokkien descent who ran a hawker stall in the area now known as Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur, in the 1920s.

Many Malaysian Chinese are of Hokkien descent with a vast majority of them residing in the states of Penang, Selangor and Johor. Besides Hokkien, there are many other dialect groups such as Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, et cetera whose forefathers – many of whom originated from south China – made this country their home many centuries ago.

There is no specific rule in the Chinese custom that prohibits intermarriage among the various dialect groups. Hence, interdialect group marriages among the Chinese were commonly practiced in those days and even more so in this modern day and time.

What it means to be ‘Hakkien’

Whenever someone asked me which dialect group do I belong to, I simply say, “I am “Hakkien” – one who is born Hakka but could only speak Hokkien.

No, I am not “speaking bird language” here. My father is Hakka and my late mother was Hokkien. I was born and raised in Klang, and lived there until the late 1990s before moving to a new township which is just an hour’s drive away.

Klang was – and still is, I believe – a Hokkien-majority town. One would only need to look at the huge mansion-like building that houses the Klang Hokkien Association and be convinced.  There are no other Chinese guild buildings around town that could come close to surpassing its sheer size and grandeur.

Many non-Hokkien Klangites like me grew up speaking Hokkien as our mother tongue. I guess this custom was quite prevalent in many towns and villages back then, as Chinese of different dialect groups tended to use the dominant Chinese dialect of the locality for social interactions and communication between dialect groups.

Hokkien was once widely spoken in the community and played a significant role in defining Klang’s place-identity, but today its usage is not as prevalent as it was in the past.

While Hokkien is still largely spoken among the elderly folks or street-market traders, those of the younger generation appear to be lacking in enthusiasm to use Hokkien as a lingua franca in their daily inter-communal communication; partly because some see Hokkien usage as an indicative of a lack of education, vulgarity and backwardness. The further decline of usage is also attributed to the rise of Mandarin as the preferred language among the Chinese-educated families.

Many studies conducted by linguistic scholars in Penang and Singapore have revealed that the use of non-Mandarin dialects in their respective regions is in dire decline and this phenomenon is in tandem with the decline of many other minority languages in the world. According to a study by a United Nations independent expert, Rita Izsák, “half of the world’s estimated 6,000-plus languages will likely die out by the end of the century” if no effort is made to preserve them.

The waning of place-identity

I am no linguist expert nor am I a dialect proponent, but my concern is less with the decline of dialects per se than with the waning of place-identity. What I am particularly interested in is the relation between language and place, and am curious as to how one would articulate that relationship.

That is, what role does language play in making places? Can language be a tool that helps us to uncover and discover the authenticity of places and its people?

Take Hokkien, for example. There are two versions of Hokkien spoken in this region today. From Penang in the north to Johor in the south, each state has developed a sort of their own unique localized variant of Hokkien, the difference in which can be easily distinguished by the sound of the speaker’s voice and words he or she uses.

Generally, all versions of Hokkien are mainly derived from the Quanzhou and Zhangzhou variants – the two oldest dialects of Southern Min spoken in Fujian province. The Hokkien of the southern states of Malaysia speak the Quanzhou variant, while the version used in the northern states  is derived from the Zhangzhou variant, and is commonly known as “Penang Hokkien”.

Interestingly, the northern version of Hokkien contains more Malay loanwords than the Hokkien spoken in the southern states. As such, it is said that a Hokkien speaker from the south would find it much easier to speak Hokkien to Taiwanese or Hokkien speakers from Fujian province, rather than one from the north.

Such is the potency of place to shape language as it evolves. Conversely, language has the power to shape how places are perceived and interpreted, as each language may paint a different picture of a place to the people who speak the language.

Great places are not only topographic entities, they are also socially constructed by “voices” of people in interaction with one another to form ideas that would then translate into action, and the action would in turn culminate in making. As Yi Fu-Tuan, a well-known geographer, once wrote: “It is not possible to understand or to explain the physical motions that produce place without overhearing […] the speech – the exchange of words – that lies behind them.”

A personal creative endeavour

Speech and spoken words have always held a certain appeal to me, particularly when they are used to ascribe and associate meaning to a place, or to bring back memories of a distant past that are closely linked to one’s birthplace.

My work-related visits to my hometown Klang, of late, has brought back many memories of my younger days, growing up in a town where Hokkien is the only dialect I could understand or speak with competence.

Hence what started as a recollection of my early years quickly grew into an impetus for personal creative endeavour. And thus my first foray into public art began. My hope is that my artwork could assume the role of an interlocutor to stimulate thinking, to prompt dialogue, and to heighten our awareness of our communal roots and values.   

For many foodies, Klang may be a town synonymous for its authentic bak kut teh, but for me, Klang is more than just a town where I was born. It is also a town infused with meaning and relevance that holds the key to my past. I am not simply a Chinese Malaysian; I am a “Hakkien” whose substantial identity is very much rooted in the habitus of Hokkien-ness.

Ti.Tu – Hokkien for spider. Catching spiders to fight is probably unheard of by many urban kids nowadays but it was one of the many childhood pastimes that I had, especially after- school hours.

Kong,Jiao.Wei – A Hokkien phrase which literally translates as talk bird language. It is often used to denote someone is talking nonsense.

Kay.poh – A Hokkien phrase for busybody or someone who is nosy.

Beh Tahan – A combination of the Hokkien word for cannot, andthe Malay word for tolerate, tahan.

The artworks shown here can be found in the vicinity of Jalan Stesyen 1, Klang. This self-initiated public art project would not have been possible without local community support, particularly from the Klang City Rejuvenation team.

Website: Klang City Rejuvenation Project

Facebook: We Love Klang

What will happen when you abstain from voting?

What will happen when you abstain from voting?

In the 13th general election in May 2013, there were 11.2 million out of 13.2 million registered voters who cast their vote, which represented an 85% turnout.

The turnout was unprecedented in all Malaysia’s past general elections and the opposition’s result in the election was also unprecedented.

The opposition was, however, unable to form the government albeit obtaining a 51% popular vote due to gerrymandering. BN, with 47% popular vote, managed to form the government with 133 out of 222 parliamentary seats.

As the 14th general election, which is the mother of all elections, approaches, we are now faced with two challenges: the 4 million unregistered voters and a newly emerged group who intend to abstain from voting.

It is unclear if the group who are planning to abstain from voting is a subset of the unregistered voters or otherwise. In either case, if they do not plan to vote, they effectually become the same group of silent Malaysians whose voices will not be heard.

I assume those in the movement who intend to abstain from voting are relatively informed about what’s going on in politics instead of totally clueless about politics or electoral system, as one of the most heard arguments from the group is “will a change in government change anything at all?”.

We can, therefore, infer that the intention to abstain stems from disappointment towards political parties, rather than misconception that voting is not important.

I can understand the frustration as the government doesn’t seem to be solving the problems when the nation is being named kleptocracy when the economy deteriorates, and when the people are struggling to pay their bills.

Many may also have lost hope from the previous general election as even though the opposition achieved 51% popular vote, BN could still form the government.

Many also have their doubts on Pakatan Harapan, thinking that the policies implemented in Penang and Selangor cannot be done the same at the federal level, hence might as well do nothing at all. There are also people who wish to abstain from voting as a form of protest against the non-existential of a perfect political party.

But what do you think will happen when you abstain from voting? Neither side forms the government? Is such protest in any way meaningful?

In the past, we relied on our experience in understanding and anticipating how would factors such as demography, voters’ age, occupation, race, and region play their part in the election result. However, in the coming general election, all these factors now seem to be less reliable as indicators of voting pattern.

Do the majority of Chinese from rural constituencies necessarily vote for MCA? Do the majority of Malays necessarily vote for Umno? Do the majority of Muslims necessarily vote for PAS? Do the majority of Felda settlers necessarily vote for BN?

All these questions have different answers now as compared to a decade ago. The extent of the differences is the core of discussion amongst Malaysians, especially politicians for the past two years.

Since there are uncertainties as to which political parties will the unregistered voters vote for, why would the opposition want more people to come out and vote?

The primary reason is simple – we believe in a society where its people are proactive in involving themselves in effecting changes to the nation. Only through voting, your voice can be heard and changes become possible.

Besides, politicians who truly believe in their policies, want more people to cast their vote. Any political party with sound policy proposals would want voters to hear them out, make their own assessment, and hopefully, vote for them.

The opposition’s aspiration in setting policies that best serve the people can be attested by our achievements in Selangor and Penang – which is why we are confident in the policies we propose and we want them to be implemented at the federal level.

When we protest, we want our voices to be heard, and corresponding actions to follow. Not casting your vote or casting spoilt votes is not a form of protest but an act of giving up our rights to protest.

If we divide the 4 million unregistered voters evenly across 222 parliamentary seats, we are looking at some 18,000 could-be voters per parliamentary seat who are giving up their rights to be the reason for change for the nation. The movement of abstention will further “delegate” your power to decide your future to others and undermine the spirit of democracy.

Looking at the evolving dynamics in Malaysian politics, we believe that a change in government is possible and probable. The last and most crucial element we need now is a widespread belief across different segments of the society that every one of us is the game changer for this coming election and that every vote counts.

Let’s not give up our rights to decide our future.

An artist’s path to fame and fortune

An artist’s path to fame and fortune

An artist's path to fame and fortune

Geraldine Tong, 2 May 2017

It is not easy to find stability and exposure as an artist, especially in Asia. However, as popular Instagram account ‘Dudu De Doodle’ discovered, there are more ways than one for an artist to earn his or her keep.

Dudu De Doodle’s Instagram has close to 30,000 followers, who are treated daily to a new artwork from Dudu, the anonymous artist behind the account.

But Dudu did not start off as an ‘Instagram-famous’ artist. And until today, he is not even a full-time artist.

“As an artist, it is quite challenging in Asia. You cannot really sell your products through the Internet.

“I tried to sell (my artwork) once, three years ago. I drew on shirts, shoes, clocks, but it was so difficult I almost gave up.

“I still have some of the merchandise at home,” Dudu said in an interview with Malaysiakini last week.

After his failed venture to sell his artworks online, he said he decided to change his perception.

“I thought, why not put all the sales and money aside, and just do it for my own interest?” he said.

So, in October 2013, Dudu started his Instagram account under the pseudonym ‘Dudu de Doodle’, in which where he posted his artwork, daily.

Instagram in 2013 was a different landscape than it is now. In 2013, ‘Instagram influencers’ was still a fairly new phenomenon in Malaysia.

Though the account started out slow, it picked up speed eventually, reaching its zenith in 2015, when he was getting hundreds of new followers every day.

“I didn’t know that, as an artist, one can achieve the level of an ‘influencer’.

“After I slowly moved to an influencer level, I realised that when the owner or the agency really respects (your work), you can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t breach the rules.

“That’s the priceless thing that money can’t buy,” Dudu said.

He lamented that it is usually a challenge to get Malaysians to recognise local talent.

“We don’t even have a chance,” he said, citing the example of the famous murals in Penang, which were painted by Lithuania-born artist Ernest Zacharevic.

However, his popularity on Instagram brought him opportunities to showcase his art on a larger scale.

Dudu is currently working on a promotion campaign with technology giant Samsung, as well as on smaller mural projects in cafes throughout Kuala Lumpur and the Klang valley.

Despite all that, Dudu values his anonymity for various reasons, the most important of which is that he wants his art to speak for itself.

Experimenting use of coffee as paint

The pictures of his artwork on his Instagram has always featured a strong link to food. Then, about two years ago, he took it one step further and began experimenting with using coffee as paint and the nearest flat surface as the canvas.

Going through his Instagram account, one can find artworks ranging from those inspired from Japanese animation to Western superhero portraits.

A particular favourite of his, Dudu pointed out, is his portrait of Wonder Woman, painted entirely with coffee on his table at home.

It's rainy day but never too cold for kakigori. Hey Polar, I'm not a shaved ice, Totoro said ?. #mykori

A post shared by DuDu Doodles The World (@dududedoodle) on

He spent about 45 minutes drawing that portrait and he loved the end product so much, he told his fiancee that he wanted to keep it on the table for as long as possible.

“In the next second, I spilled water on it,” he said with a laugh.

That is the ephemeral fate for all his coffee paintings on tables, he said.

“It is a love-hate piece because you really love it but you cannot keep it. It is just a good memory that I store on Instagram,” he explained.

The first time he attempted a coffee painting was a portrait of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, at a ‘kopitiam’.

The art attracted the those operating hawker stalls at the outlet, but the kopitiam owner wiped off his art, saying that Dudu had vandalised his table.

Unfortunately, Dudu said, that was not the last time someone accused him of vandalising their property, for people do not understand it is supposed to be art.

He then related an incident in Singapore, where he drew a coffee painting on an al fresco table of a coffeeshop. He then left.

Later on, when he walked past the coffeeshop again, he noticed that the table he had painted on, which was outside the shop, had been moved inside, and put up as a display.

“That was the happiest thing for me,” he said, to see that his art was being appreciated.

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Following the money on lucrative illegal Indo-M’sia maid trade

Following the money on lucrative illegal Indo-M’sia maid trade

Following the money on lucrative illegal Indo-M’sia maid trade

Malaysiakini & Tempo, 25 April 2017

Ten months after she ran away from home, Yufrinda Selan eventually returned a day before her 19th birthday. But it wasn’t tears of joy that greeted her.

Yufrinda’s family howled as her body, wrapped in a shroud, arrived in a white coffin at their hometown in Batu Putih, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

Her father, Mentusalak Selan, did not dare to open the wooden box as it bore another name – Melinda Sapay.

False document / PIX Gamaliel

“I was scared of making a mistake,” Mentusalak said when met earlier this month.

It was only after a provincial officer from Indonesia’s Migrant Workers Placement and Protection Body showed Yufrinda’s photo that Metusalak was willing to open the coffin. His daughter was inside.

Yufrinda was born on July 15, 1997. On her birthday last year, local police lifted the lid on her coffin, which was kept at a hospital mortuary.

Her family members identified her from a mole on her leg. But they were also shocked as there were stitches all over her body and bruises on her face.

“They said she hung herself and died at the home of her employer in Malaysia,” Mentusalak (photo) said.

Based on investigations by the police in Kupang, the provincial capital of East Nusa Tenggara, Yufrinda was recruited by a local human trafficking network that also involved experts in forging travel documents.

They identified former police officer Eduard Leneng and Diana Aman, who owned two private manpower agencies – PT Pancamanah Utama and PT Jaya Abadi – as individuals responsible for recruiting and sending Yufrinda to Malaysia.

Both of them were charged with various related offences earlier this month.

According to the charge sheet, Eduard was involved in forging Yufrinda’s documents, before she was handed over to Diana.

Met early last December, Eduard denied any involvement in human trafficking activities. “I have never dealt with the people who recruited Yufrinda,” he said.

Diana and her lawyer Edwin Manurung, on the other hand, reserved their comments. “For the meantime, no comments,” said Edwin.

Not the only maid to return as corpse

Yufrinda’s end is not an isolated case. Official Indonesian statistics from last year revealed that 33 migrant workers from the province returned home as corpses, including from Malaysia.

“Until today, trafficking of migrants from NTT to Malaysia is still rampant,” said Melki Musu, a coordinator for a local human trafficking watchdog.

East Nusa Tenggara is Indonesia’s southernmost province and most commonly referred to by the initials for its Indonesian name, Nusa Tenggara Timur or NTT.

Kupang district police chief Adjie Indra revealed that there have been more than 2,200 migrant workers from across NTT – spanning more than 500 islands across 48,718.1 square kilometres of land and sea – who have fallen victim to human trafficking syndicates over the last two years.

The figure was obtained from witness statements and suspects interrogated by the police. “There are at least seven human trafficking networks based in NTT,” Adjie said.

He noted that police have yet to crack down on all of the networks. “It will be done in stages,” he added.

According to Adjie, some of the human trafficking networks are funded by maid services and manpower agencies in Malaysia. “Their modus operandi is the same and it involves a big man in Malaysia.”

Money trail from Malaysia to Indonesia recruiters

Joint investigations into the human trafficking trail involving players in East Nusa Tenggara in Medan and Malaysia by Malaysiakini and Tempo started in September last year.

Their crossing paths could clearly be traced from records of their transactions between January 2015 and August last year. Almost as thick as a ream of paper, it details the flow of nearly RM1 million from Malaysia to NTT, meant for recruiting workers.

The largest transactions were from a woman named Oey Wenny Gotama.

For one year, from August 2015, records showed that Oey Wenny had transferred at least RM646,000, or nearly two million rupiah, to Seri Safkini, owner of PT Cut Sari Asih – an Indonesian recruitment agency based in Medan, Sumatera.

On June 28 last year, Oey Wenny transferred RM28,000, recorded as “deposit for five TKW”. TKW is the acronym for tenaga kerja wanita or female workers, while TKI refers to tenaga kerja Indonesia, meaning both male and female workers.

Seri Safkini then distributed the money to her contacts in NTT. One recipient was identified as Yohanes Leonardus Ringgi, a security officer at Kupang’s El Tari Airport. There were 155 transactions over a 12-month period beginning August 2015, amounting to RM600,000 according to present exchange rates.

Yohanes Ringgi was met on three separate occasions, while behind bars after his arrest last November, for alleged human trafficking offences. Reluctant to speak at first, he finally opened up on the human trafficking networks in NTT on the third meeting.

He admitted to receiving orders to recruit potential domestic helpers to be sent to Malaysia, from Eduard Leneng and Diana Aman, among others. Yohanes Ringgi also named Seri Safkini.

“They will send me money,” he said.

According to records of the transactions, the amount he received from Diana and Eduard was more than RM83,000.

Having worked as an airport security officer for 16 years, Yohanes Ringgi’s other duty was to ensure that potential workers would pass through all immigration checks. He admitted to have sent more than 400 workers to Malaysia from Medan and Surabaya. “For every one worker I will get 500,000 rupiah”.

Runaway teens enticed by making big bucks

Even children were not spared. Tempo met with Damaris Nifu and Jeni Maria Tekun, two underaged workers who Yohanes tried smuggle out. The duo were questioned by Kupang’s district police.

Both of them have received primary school education. They were not even 16 years old when first approached by Yanto and Mama Nona, two of Yohanes‘ underlings who were arrested sometime in mid-2015.

They ran away from home after being lured with a three million rupiah monthly salary – at a time when the local minimum wage was only 1.25 million rupiah. They were then kept at PT Cut Sari Asih’s office.

“We were harshly treated. Some were beaten and kicked,” recalled Jeni. Damaris and Jeni were later sent to Banda Acheh, but they eventually fled after being mistreated by their employers.

For children like Damaris and Jeni, their journey must start by creating a “new identity” – primarily to meet the legal employment age.

In Malaysia, a domestic helper candidate must be at least 21, while those employed in other sectors can be as young as 18.

Before departing for Medan, the two girls were furnished with forged identification cards.

All that was needed to do this was rudimentary graphic design skills and a computer equipped with Adobe Photoshop. The maker was a local university student named Sipri Talan who has connections with a number of labour recruiters.

“For every single fake KTP (identification card) I will get 100,000 rupiah (about RM30),” Sipri said when met in his detention cell at the Kupang district police station.

The new ID was then used to make their passports. The next step, according to Yohanes, would involve collusion with immigration officers in charge of issuing new passports.

The passport belonging to Yufrinda Selan, who died in Malaysia – issued under the name Melinda Sapay – was made by Godstar Mozes Banik, an immigration officer at Kupang’s El Tari airport.

This was according to the charge sheet against Eduard. Godstar, however, denied his role in abetting traffickers to produce the migrant workers’ passports. “Everything was done according to procedure,” he said.

Yufrinda’s case has been an important lesson for the Indonesian Immigration Department, the country’s Immigration director-general Ronny Franky Sompie said. “We will be more vigilant when dealing with passport applications,” he said.

M’sian employers paying double the set recruitment fee

Meanwhile, in Bandar Puchong Jaya, Selangor, a large yellow sign marks the entrance to the company NG Bersatu. The company’s name is written in capital letters and promotes its services as a “maid supplier”. There is an accompanying image of a woman in uniform while holding a toddler, both of them smiling.

The main office is located on the first floor. At the back of its spacious working area, there is a small room. A double-decker bed takes up most of the available space there. There is no window and only a fan.

The room is where Sarlin Agustina Djingib was taken to in August 2015, after she arrived in Malaysia. The migrant worker from East Nusa Tenggara was recruited by a human trafficking network involving Yohanes Ringgi.

At the time, she was still a teenager and below the legal employment age of 21. “All of my fake documents were made by Yohanes’ underlings,” Sarlin told police officers from Kupang, who recorded her statement at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur last December.

From her hometown in NTT, Sarlin was flown to Batam, an Indonesian province a short boat ride away from Johor. The journey of more than 3,800km would have taken her about seven hours, based on available flight details, including transit time in Surabaya or Jakarta. There is no direct flight between the two provinces.

In Batam, Sarlin was met by Angellin Wijaya, the daughter of Seri Safkini, owner of PT Cut Sari Asih. “Angellin sent me to the Batam Centre port to cross over into Johor Bahru,” she said.

An unidentified man then drove her the entire five-hour journey to NG Bersatu’s office in Puchong.

After staying one night in the room, Sarlin said she was picked up by her employer, Madam Jasmin. “I paid RM19,000 to NG Bersatu,” said Jasmin who accompanied Sarlin to the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The cost is more than double the RM8,400 recruitment fee agreed upon by both governments. And until today, Sarlin still does not have a valid work permit.

Click on the arrow below to follow Sarlin’s journey Malaysia in the interactive map below, or click here to view the map.

Malaysian recruiter unaware maids underaged

Kupang police also recorded Oey Wenny Goetama’s statement at the embassy, in connection with investigations into the human trafficking network that snared Sarlin.

Oey Wenny claimed to represent NG Bersatu. “I don’t know anything about human trafficking,” she said when met at the embassy last December, before rushing off. Oey Wenny also denied channelling funds for the recruitment of potential workers.

NG Bersatu’s manager, Ng Jing Hao, however contradicted Wenny.

“She handles our suppliers (Indonesian agencies). We pay her and she passes on the money to agencies in Indonesia,” Ng said when met at his office on March 15. However, he declined to reveal the exact amount that has been channelled to Indonesia.

Ng also insisted that he has never broken any Malaysian laws related to recruitment and placement of migrant workers. “We don’t take underaged workers. We go according to their passports.”

Ng said he wouldn’t know if any of them were underaged. “So far when they come into Malaysia through the immigration process, they all have no problems. Their fingerprints are all okay,” he said.

“If the maid is underaged, we don’t want them,” he stressed.

He admitted that NG Bersatu had a brief partnership with PT Cut Sari Asih “quite long” ago. But Sarlin was not one of the recruits.

“She came to Malaysia via another agent. We just helped her to find an employer,” said Ng who also admitted to taking a cut from Jasmin’s payment.

Repeated attempts to obtain a response from Seri Safkini and her daughter Angellin Wijaya were unsuccessful.

Their house (photo) at a high-end neighbourhood in West Jakarta appeared to be deserted. The local security guard later confirmed that both women were no longer staying in the house, which was also used as a shelter for recruited workers.

In Medan, another shelter that belonged to the Cut Sari Asih firm was similarly empty, after a raid by local police in August last year. The main gate to the two-storey house has been chained.

Seri Safkini is also a fugitive. According to Kupang district police chief Adjie Indra, the firm has sent at least 251 workers, who ended up as undocumented immigrants in Malaysia.

A young ‘Datuk’ businessman

Back in NTT, another former recruiter admitted to receiving funds from Malaysia. The recruiter, Kobar, admitted he once sent six workers to a Malaysian named Albert Tei. “For each worker, I received 21 million rupiah,” said Kobar who was once detained for human trafficking. Besides Kobar, two manpower agency managers from Indonesia, and several others from Malaysia, also identified Tei as a major recruiter of Indonesian migrant workers. Tei is the general manager of ManPower88, a consortium of eight maid agencies. The 29-year-old, who holds the Datuk title, is also the owner of Maxim Birdnest, a factory based in Klang. A labour attache at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Mustafa Kamal, revealed that he once questioned Tei on the number of workers he would bring in every month. According to Mustafa, Tei had admitted that he could “import” up to 100 Indonesian workers a month. “That is a very large number,” Mustafa added. By comparison, Malaysian National Association of Employment Agencies (Pikap) president Raja Zulkepley Dahalan said his members typically only recruit 20 workers a month. One of those brought to Malaysia from NTT is Seravina Dahu. Showed a picture of Tei, when met at her son’s home in Oesapa, Kupang, Seravina identified him as “my former boss”. Seravina, who is now a farmer, said that she never had a permit while working in Malaysia. “There were many others from NTT at Tei’s shelter, and the majority of them did not have proper documents,” she said. She also recounted how she often worked for more than 12 hours a day but was only given one meal: bread and plain water.

Met at his factory in Klang (photo), Tei vehemently denied claims of mistreatment and employing Indonesian workers illegally. “I only deal with legal (documented) workers,” he stressed. “If any of them came in using fake documents, I wouldn’t know because that is the responsibility of the agencies in Indonesia.”

Tei, who claimed to enjoy a close relationship with the police and immigration officers, also denied having recruited 100 workers a month.

“The most is 70 or 80 workers and that, too, during the time when Malaysia’s economy was still good. Now the most would only be 30 workers,” he said.

However, Tei admitted that he is known figure among labour recruiters in Indonesia.

“If in one month I recruit 50 workers, in two years that would be 1,200 workers. So it’s not a surprise if they mention my name back in their villages,” he pointed out.

In another conversation, he stressed he is unaware of irregularities in the recruitment process in Indonesia.

“We follow Malaysian law. So long as they have a valid passport and passed their medical check-up, we (Malaysian agencies) will process them (for placement). We don’t have the right to check whether their passports are fake or whatever,” Tei said.

All relevant documents, he explained, would also require endorsements from six parties – the Indonesian agency, Malaysian agency, the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Labour Department, the maid and her employer.

Immigration collusion

There were some 1.2 million documented Indonesian workers in Malaysia as at the end of last year. But the Indonesian embassy’s labour attache estimates that the number of undocumented workers would be much higher. “The figure could be double,” Mustafa Kamal said.

Undocumented Indonesian workers work in plantations, restaurants and as sex workers. One of them, who introduced herself as Anggun from Jakarta, based her “operations” along Petaling Street. Anggun said a majority of the women working as sex workers in the area are Indonesians. “I have only been here a month,” she said.

Mustafa said both the Indonesian and Malaysian governments are facing difficulties to curb the flow of undocumented workers – and that one major factor is beyond their control. “There are some 150 hot spots along the countries’ borders that can be used as departure and entrance points for these workers,” he explained.

In Borneo, the land boundary has a length of 2,019.5km and separates the Indonesian provinces of North Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan from Sabah and Sarawak. There is, however, only one official immigration point on either side – at Entikong in Indonesia and Tebedu in Malaysia.

The maritime boundaries between Indonesia and Malaysia, meanwhile, are located along four bodies of water – the Straits of Malacca, Straits of Singapore, South China Sea and Celebes Sea.

Collusion between authorities at official immigration counters has further compounded the problem.

At a popular nasi padang restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, two undocumented Indonesian workers – 28-year-old Ika Fatmawati and her cousin, 19-year-old Ines Nugraini – from Tangerang in Banten, West Java, shared how they arrived in Pasir Gudang, Johor, through Batam Centre port (photo) last Christmas.

“We were instructed to walk through counter Number 3. We were told that we would be ‘safe’,” said Ika.

Both of them only lasted two months working as cleaning service staff in Malacca. They never received their salary and were forbidden from leaving their hostel, unless they were heading to work. On Feb 22, they fled to Kuala Lumpur. “Now I feel free,” she said.

Johor Immigration director Rohaizi Bahari did not respond to requests for comment.

Ika’s fate is better than NTT native Yufrinda.

To this day, her father Mentusalak remains in the dark over his daughter’s real cause of death as there have been no investigations on allegations of assault. “I am convinced she was murdered,” he said.

Yufrinda’s employer, Conrad Wee, declined comment. “It was a very sad incident. I do not want to talk about it anymore,” Wee said, before driving out of his apartment building in Cheras (picture) where Yufrinda was said to have hung herself in the kitchen.

Inquiries with the police did not yield further information. When contacted, Bukit Aman’s D7 Division principal assistant director SAC Rohaimi Md Isa merely said the case was discussed by authorities from both countries on a bilateral platform.

“We have bilateral discussions with all neighbouring countries facing issues of human trafficking. It is for the purpose of facilitating investigations and enforcements,” Rohaimi said.

However, Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Task Force chief in Malaysia, Yusron B Ambary, said a request has been made to local authorities to probe Yufrinda’s case. “Only the Malaysian police have the power to investigate,” he said.

In the meantime, Mentuselak Selan, Yufrinda’s father, continues to light a candle by his daughter’s grave – hoping for the spark that would reveal the truth.

Reporting by Stefanus Teguh Edi Pramono and Yohanes Seo from Tempo and Alyaa Alhadjri from Malaysiakini.

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